84°F
weather icon Clear

‘Apocalypse Now’ more vivid, hallucinatory returns to theaters

NEW YORK — If filmmaking is a war, then “Apocalypse Now” was very nearly Francis Ford Coppola’s Waterloo.

The battles Coppola fought while making his 1979 epic nearly destroyed him. A typhoon wrecked a major set. Harvey Keitel was replaced by Martin Sheen. Coppola searched desperately for an ending. He worked even harder to coax a few lines out of Marlon Brando.

But out of that tumult Coppola created a masterpiece. And 40 years later, “Apocalypse Now” has never looked so good.

Coppola has supervised a 4K restoration of the film and, for the second time, tweaked the cut. Having perhaps gone too far in his 2001 “Redux,” which added 53 minutes, “Apocalypse Now Final Cut,” which opens in theaters Thursday and on home video Aug. 27, splits the difference at 183 minutes.

In its present and restored form, the majesty and madness of “Apocalypse Now” is more vivid and hallucinatory than ever. Coppola considers it the definitive version. It completes a four decade journey turning what was almost a mess into the masterwork he envisioned from the start.

Coppola, 80, has lately been busy with equally audacious plans.

In 2017, he published a book, “Live Cinema and its Techniques,” about his experiments and hopes for a new art form that combines cinema, television and theater in a live experience. He’s also recently returned to a long delayed passion project, “Megalopolis,” a sprawling sci-fi, New York-set epic. Coppola has been working on the script and casting, and searching for production partners. “Or maybe now it’s at the stage I can do it by myself, I don’t know,” he says.

In a recent interview, Coppola spoke about “Apocalypse Now” then and now, why he was “terrified” after making it and why he has so much trouble letting go.

___

AP: You’ve talked before about the theatrical version of “Apocalypse Now” missing some of the “weirdness” you wanted. What did you mean?

Coppola: In the 1979 version when it first opened, the various people who had sponsored it and were distributing it felt that it was too long and too weird. So we went through a tough few evenings trying to make it shorter and trying to make it appear more normal as opposed to “weird.” So we took some things out. Some of them were just 30 seconds long or a minute long but generally we were trying to make it shorter and less weird, which I guess is another word for “surreal.” After it was clear the movie had survived — meaning, you never know when you make a movie if its opening is going to be the last you heard of it or it’s going to have a life after that — I was looking at it on television and it didn’t seem so weird or surreal. It stuck out less as something unusual. For that reason, people kept saying to me, “Maybe you should have put back what you took out.”

AP: Did you consciously want to put your stamp on the war movie?

Coppola: The Vietnam War was different than other American wars. It was a West Coast sensibility rather than an East Coast sensibility. In war movies before “Apocalypse,” there was always a sort of Brooklyn character, an East Coast and Midwest personality. In “Apocalypse Now,” it was LA and it was surfing and it was drugs and it was rock ‘n’ roll so it was more of a West Coast ambiance to the war. In addition, there were many sort of odd contradictions that related to the morality involved. There was a line I once read that’s not in the film but to me it sums up the meaning of the movie. It was: “We teach the boys to drop fire on people yet we won’t let them write the word ‘f—-’ on their airplanes because it’s obscene.”

AP: You’ve gone back and made changes to a number of your films. For you, is a film ever really finished?

Coppola: The only reason I’m in a position to go back and evaluate some of these decisions is because I own the film, which is the same reason George Lucas looks at some of his movies. Obviously most filmmakers don’t own their films and would not be permitted to change a cut. But the version that you open with, you’re very concerned that it will have some longevity. And so you may do things for the opening that you’d rather not do but you don’t want to risk a negative reception because a film that opens with a negative reception is dead. If you can get it to be a positive reception or even a qualified positive reception then it has a chance of surviving. If you look at all the films I made, only “The Godfather” was just a runaway creative hit. Most of the other films were highly qualified and that meant that I was trying to nurse them into persisting and surviving. Later on, since I own them, I very often decided to undo things that were pushed on me by distributors or people at the time, and do what I wanted to do.

AP: Eleanor Coppola, your wife, wrote in her “Notes” that you took on some of Kurtz’ megalomania while making “Apocalypse Now.”

Coppola: Whenever I made a movie, I was always personally compared to the main character. When I was doing “The Godfather,” I was Michael Corleone, Machiavellian and sly. When I made “Apocalypse Now,” I was the megalomaniac. When I made “Tucker,” I was the innovative entrepreneur. The truth of the matter is all my life if I have been anything I’ve been enthusiastic and imaginative. I don’t have talent that I wish I had. My talent was more enthusiasm and imagination and a kind of prescient sense, a sense of knowing what’s going to happens before it happens. Other than that, my talent is limited.

AP: A recent Film Comment essay lamented the film’s portrayal of the Vietnam as “a spectacular but soulless backdrop.”

Coppola: It would have been interesting and good if the movie had been made in Vietnam. But the truth of the matter is when we were making “Apocalypse Now,” the Vietnamese War was only winding down. We did not have access to going there. We were making it in the Philippines and although we did have some Vietnamese people with us, it wasn’t the same as making it in Vietnam which would have made it possible to give an impression of the Vietnamese people, who I have only the highest regard for. When you make a war film, it’s from one side unless it’s “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and you’re deliberately deciding to depict both sides equally. This film was specifically about these young California Americans participating in this war, and that was the lens this film was made through.

AP: Did you emerge from “Apocalypse Now” a different filmmaker?

Coppola: Yeah, but no more than I was after the extreme experience of the “Godfather” movie. Every film I have made has been a new sheet of paper. I rarely would repeat a style. Every movie I worked on, I came out of it being a different person.

AP: How did you feel after “Apocalypse Now”?

Coppola: I was terrified. For one thing, I was on the hook for the whole budget personally — that’s why I came to own it. In addition, in those days interest was over 25, 27%. So it looked as though, especially given the controversy and all the bogus articles being written about a movie that no one knew anything about but were predicting it was “the heralded mess” of that year, it looked as though I was never going to get out of the jeopardy I was in. I had kids, I was young. I had no family fortune behind me. I was scared stiff. It was no different after “Godfather.” ”Godfather” was a project I was constantly about to be fired from, that the studio hated what I was doing looked like. I didn’t think I was going to survive that. All of those movies, which were these monumental attempts at art, left me in a different place when I finished than when I started. But then it was followed by another one that was a similar challenge. I’m 80 now but from age 25 to 60, my life was one crisis after another.

AP: Do you think you thrive in that kind of tumultuous environment?

Coppola: When you attempt something that you don’t exactly know how to do but you still long to attempt it, you’re setting the stage for a certain style and struggle in life. Clearly if after I made the gangster movie that was successful, if I had just spent my entire career making gangster pictures, that would have been a more tranquil life. I wanted to learn. I realize now that one of my fundamental aspirations is learning. There’s nothing more pleasurable than learning something you don’t know how to do.

AP: Is going back to your films to get them just right for you part of preserving your legacy? Do you think about how you want you and your work to be remembered?

Coppola: I’m not so crazy about my legacy. I want people to know that I liked little kids and I was a good camp counselor when I was a camp counselor in 1957, that I have a family with wonderful children that I find so fascinating and very talented. But ultimately, to me, the greatest legacy you can have is that someone somewhere saw one of the things you did and it inspired them to do something that goes and then inspired someone else in the future. In a way, it’s a form of immortality.

AP: Today, most directors seeking the scale of “Apocalypse Now” would likely only find it in a superhero film. Do you sympathize with them?

Coppola: Absolutely. I feel now we have this bifurcated cinema in our country being of independent films where we have the most wonderful wealth of talent and then the industry films which are pretty much superhero films. One has too much money — the studio, Marvel comic-type movies. They’re basically making the same movie over and over again, and seducing all of the talent. Everyone is hoping to get a small part in one of those movies because that’s where the money is. And as opposed, the wonderful, unusual, exotic, interesting, provocative and beautiful independent films have no money. The budget for the craft service of one of those superhero films could more than be a budget for some of these brilliant young — and not only young — filmmakers. That is a tragedy.

AP: The long life your films have had can lead to strange places. Prosecutors want to show “The Godfather II” during Roger Stone’s trial . Donald Trump has cited it as one of his favorite films.

Coppola: The list of fans of the “Godfather” films not only includes the gentleman you speak of but also Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi. Just go through all of the toughest dictators in the modern world and their favorite movie is “The Godfather.”

AP: What do you make of that?

Coppola: Because “The Godfather” is an American story of an immigrant family that ultimately finds success in America. Success is not a bad thing but it depends on how you define it. If you define success as wealth, influence, power and fame, you have to know that does not bring happiness. We could go through the famous top 1% who have all the things we just mentioned and you’ll find some of the most unhappy people on Earth. What brings happiness is friendship, learning, creativity. We know what brings happiness. But what are you going to do when every nation in the world is pointing its main objective toward something that does not add up?

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas celebrates National Fajita Day
Cook Ruben Fuentes and general manager Taylor Pulliam of Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas prepare steak and shrimp fajitas with the restaurant’s signature fiery treatment. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pasta Shop Ristorante serves a watermelon-shrimp salad
Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson serves a summer salad that combines watermelon with greens, feta and shrimp. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Factory Kitchen in Las Vegas makes classic affogato
Jorge Luque, pastry chef at The Factory Kitchen at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes affogato with two simple ingredients - house-made gelato and fresh espresso. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review Journal with image from The Factory Kitchen)
The Cereal Killerz Kitchen serves over 100 cereals
Christopher Burns, owner of The Cereal Killerz Kitchen at Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson, makes a Milk & Cookies Shake from his more than 100 varieties of cereal. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in Las Vegas makes a State Fair CrazyShake
Bianca Zepeva, a shaker at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes a State Fair CrazyShake with a kettle corn rim, caramel, corn-based ice cream, popcorn brittle, crushed kettle corn, sprinkles and a cherry. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Balboa Pizza Company makes Thai peanut chicken wings
Irma Perez, kitchen manager at Balboa Pizza Company at The District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, near Las Vegas, brines chicken wings for 24 hours before roasting and frying them and finishing them in various styles such as Thai peanut. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
New Venetian pool deck
Final touches are currently being added to the hotel’s main tower pool deck, which consists of five pools. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who is Vegas Vic? (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada State Museum Director Dennis McBride explains the origins of the Vegas icon.
Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas serves a 4-pound Big Island Feast Burger
Cindy Sun, general manager of Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas, makes the Big Island Feast Burger with 2 1/2 pounds of the house bacon/beef blend, Napa-cilantro slaw, six slices of American cheese, a can of grilled Spam, six slices of chargrilled pineapple, four fried eggs and a drizzle of teriyaki and serves it with macaroni salad. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
Shark Week cupcakes at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas
Brittnee Klinger, a cake decorator at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas, makes Shark Week cupcakes with ocean-blue buttercream, fondant fins and a blood-red strawberry filling. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fans and friends recall Elvis opening in Las Vegas
Fifty years ago on July 31st 1969, Elvis Presley opened at the International hotel in Las Vegas. He went on to do 837 consecutive sold-out shows at the property.
Hot peach cobbler at Beaumont’s Southern Kitchen at Texas Station
Michael Ross, room chef/pitmaster at Beaumont’s Southern Kitchen at Texas Station in Las Vegas, makes peach cobbler by baking peaches in a cast-iron pan with batter and crumble, then topping with Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and bourbon-caramel sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Water Grill opens at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas
Water Grill, from a 30-year-old California company opening its first Las Vegas location, specializes is fresh seafood including 16 types of oysters. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cat's Meow comes to Las Vegas
New Orleans-based karaoke chain opens new location in Neonopolis. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making the Loco Moco Breakfast Burger at Broken Yolk Cafe in Las Vegas
Manny Menina, line cook at Broken Yolk Cafe in Las Vegas, stacks 8 ounces of beef, 2 strips of bacon, hash browns, caramelized onions and 2 fried eggs on 4 King’s Hawaiian slider buns to make the Loco Moco Breakfast Burger. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
SecretBurger at China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Carlos Cruz, executive chef of Jose Andres’ China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, makes the SecretBurger off-menu, one-night-only ‘All Quacked Up’ with a kimchi pancake, Peking duck, house-made hoisin sauce, a fried duck egg, pickled micro-vegetables, caviar and gold flakes and serves it with a Stillwater Artisanal Ale. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Famous Blue Angel statue commemorated in downtown Las Vegas mural
The 16-foot tall Blue Angel statue that stood above the Blue Angel Motel for six decades is featured in a mural spanning three walls at a downtown Las Vegas building. James Stanford designed the “A Phalanx of Angels Ascending" mural based on his photography, and Cliff Morris painted the mural at 705 Las Vegas Blvd. North, near the Neon Museum. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Making Castle Frites at the new Frites at Excalibur
Tom McGrath, district manager/executive chef at Frites at the Excalibur in Las Vegas, tops his beef-tallow fries like a loaded baked potato - with white and yellow cheddar, sour cream, bacon and chives. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hello Kitty Cafe on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
The Hello Kitty Cafe opens Friday, July 12th, 2019, between New York, New York and Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Amano Las Vegas' Fat Baby Sandwich
Chef Jason Weber of Amano Las Vegas has created a sandwich stuffed with pasta, and it's a hit. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A class at Melissa Coppel Chocolate and Pastry School in Las Vegas.
Melissa Coppel, who teaches classes in various countries around the world, attracts students from far and wide to her eponymous school in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Havana Lobster at Boteco in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marcus Fortunato, co-owner of Boteco in Las Vegas, learned to make Havana Lobster from the chef at El Figaro, a favorite of former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Chef Gustav Mauler Is retiring
Las Vegas chef Gustav Mauler announces his retirement on Sunday, June 30, 2019.
Bellagio Conservatory unveils Italian summer exhibit
The Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens have opened the gates to its summer display. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
A.D. Hopkins on his debut novel
Veteran journalist introduces readers to “The Boys Who Woke Up Early.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seven Magic Mountains restoration complete
Artist Ugo Rondinone’s iconic Seven Magic Mountains receives a complete painting restoration in June 2019.
Making off-the-menu bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow in Las Vegas
Senior chef tournant Cesar Laran has created secret bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. To make them, he rolls bean curd sheets around a filling of carrots, celery and shiitake mushrooms, then smokes them with oolong tea and sugar. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Bread Pudding French Toast at Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas
James Trees, chef/owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, slices house-made blueberry bread pudding, coats it in egg yolks and mascarpone, fries it and tops it with spiced walnuts, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and creme fraiche. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Celine Dion closes 1,141-show residency on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Hear from Celine Dion about her 16 years on the Las Vegas Strip and what the future has in store for her. (Caesars Entertainment)
THE LATEST
Peter Fonda, ‘Easy Rider’ star, dies at age 79

Peter Fonda, the son of a Hollywood legend who became a movie star in his own right both writing and starring in counterculture classics like “Easy Rider,” has died at 79.

‘Hobbs & Shaw’ repeats at No. 1 against slew of newcomers

Audiences helped the “Fast & Furious” spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw” take another lap at No. 1 even with an onslaught of four new major releases this weekend.